The Campus Echo had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Johnson O. Akinleye, N.C. Central University’s twelfth and current chancellor, and ask him about the position as a whole and his goals for the future of our university. Our questions and his responses are below.
Campus Echo: What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of your position as chancellor?
Chancellor Akinleye: There are numerous areas of opportunities I have found that NCCU has at its footsteps. Many of these areas are articulated in our strategic priorities for 2017-18 academic year. I invite you to visit the NCCU website to learn more about these priorities.
CE: What have you found to be the most rewarding aspects of your position as chancellor?
CA: One of the most rewarding aspects of being Chancellor is having the opportunity to advocate for the students of North Carolina Central University and to provide them with a chance to fulfill their dreams.
I always remember the premise upon which this university was founded 107 years ago by Dr. James E. Shepard and am honored to continue the quest to fulfilling this legacy.
CE: What has surprised you most about your position as chancellor?
CA: The 24/7 nature of the job. The chancellor engages both internally and externally and is called upon on a moment notice to deal with emerging and pressing issues.
CE: Below are the strategic goals you gave ABC11 in an interview shortly after being appointed.
- Boost enrollment and make NCCU accessible
- Graduate job ready students
- Expansion and renovations
- Increase degree program offerings
What measures are in the works to meet them?
CA: In August 2017, I launched 6 strategic priorities that focus on initiatives from expanding research and facilitating innovative strategic partnerships with the Research Triangle Park to building new infrastructure for the university. The 6 priorities are:
- Improve NCCU’s brand and reputation to embrace student success and offer multiple access points for students seeking higher education.
- Expand NCCU’s portfolio of academic offerings and research initiatives and provide new opportunities for global immersion
- Expand partnerships with higher education institutions, community colleges, K-12, private industry and nonprofits to recruit, support and employ students.
- Facilitate the development of innovative strategies with Durham County, the City of Durham and the Research Triangle to create economic opportunity and revitalization in areas surrounding NCCU.
- Reinforce and invest in improved security measures to enhance campus safety and well-being.
- Improve and build new infrastructure to better accommodate the NCCU community as it grows and thrives.
As it applies to students, the Eagle Promise (the encompassing name for the strategic priorities) means NCCU prepare students who are job-ready for employment in their field of study or equally well qualified to proceed to graduate or professional school, if they so desire.
It says we will do everything in our power to make sure students earn their bachelor’s degree in four years and have opportunities during their education to engage people and programs that are both national and international in scope.
And it means that we will encourage all students to hone their leadership skills through initiatives in the classroom, educational service projects, and with our partners in business and government.
CE: There has been a continues shortage of campus housing for students. What plans does the university have to address those shortages? What arrangements does the university have with off-campus housing sites, such as Campus Crossings?
CA: Housing is an important topic, and one that we’ve been discussing with our Board of Trustees.
At the present time, demand for on-campus housing outpaces our current capacity due to increasing enrollment in first time and transfer students. This is a good problem to have as NCCU is increasingly becoming a highly desirable and selective institution.
We are analyzing the current demand, as well as projections for future growth, as we consider our options. Plans are in the works to bring additional housing on line in the next few years.
Meanwhile, we are working with Student Affairs to secure safe off-campus housing sites to make sure they can accommodate our overflow until additional on campus is brought online.
CE: What efforts are underway and in the works to increase campus security?
CA: Security on campus is very good. The university has been working diligently with our city and county partners to address concerns related to security in and around the NCCU campus perimeter. These are areas in the purview of the city. I applaud the NCCU Police Department for their hard work ensuring the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.
We will announce a new collaboration soon related to our campus security initiative in areas surrounding NCCU. A few of the initiatives that are underway for the 2017-2018 academic year include
- Completing the installation of approximately 900 indoor and outdoor security cameras by June 2018;
- Approximately 100 existing cameras will be integrated into the new system;
- 600 will be new interior cameras;
- 200 will be exterior 180/360 degree new cameras; and
- Increasing police foot and bike patrols, hire a crime prevention officer to enhance visibility and contract with a security firm to assign security officers to each residence hall by November 2017.
CE: In terms of technology infrastructure, what efforts are underway to keep NCCU on the cutting edge of technology? What efforts are underway to keep faculty on the cutting edge of technology?
CA: NCCU works hard and I believe is successful at enhancing our systems to remain on the cutting-edge of technology. Here are a few examples of the work that has been done in the area:
- Upgraded technology in many of our classrooms. Efforts underway to complete upgrade of all classrooms.
- Launched the myNCCU mobile app to provide students and others with convenient access to campus news, maps, library, athletics and other information;
- Hired a Chief Information Security and Compliance Officer to follow state and industry standards and ensure that the institution remains in compliance;
- Partnered with Google Fiber to implement a Google Fiber Community Leaders program for our students; and
- Developed e-Learning office to support for faculty training in technology and online environment.
CE: There are continuing budget cuts from the state for university funding. What is the fiscal health of the university? What efforts are underway to acquire resources from non-state sources?
CA: The fiscal condition of NCCU is very healthy, an opinion that was confirmed by the N.C. State Auditor during a recent financial review.
The North Carolina legislature has allocated funding in line with requests from higher education institutions for the past few years, which has allowed us to respond to the needs of the campus as they arise.
Enrollment is healthy too. We have seen steady increases and this year experienced a record enrollment for 1,704 first-year and transfer students combined.
CE: NCCU was ranked #80 as a regional Southern University with an overall score of 45/100. What initiatives are you considering to improve NCCU’s ranking?
CA: We enjoy seeing these rankings. There are many issued each year, including the one you cited from U.S. News & World Report. To get a better picture of the university’s status, I would urge you to take a look at some other lists that are published.
For example, “U.S. News and World Report” ranks NCCU third among 72 public HBCUs in the country and second-highest among North Carolina HBCUs.
“Diverse Issues in Higher Education” named NCCU among the nation’s top in awarding degrees to minority students. The NCCU School of Law was picked as 16 out of the nation’s top law schools by the SE Education Group.
Another factor to consider are the rankings of our individual programs. We have attained top marks in a number of areas, including online bachelor’s programs, Hospitality and Tourism, counselor education, and many others.
CE: Where do you see NCCU 25 years from now?
CA: NCCU will continue to be a thriving nationally prominent institution of higher learning.
We offer degrees in more than 80 academic areas today, and I expect to see the university’s academic portfolio continue to grow and diversify to reflect the needs and opportunities available in this community and elsewhere in our country.
We will likely have students enrolled in countries around the world, as our award-winning online bachelor’s and master’s degrees become increasingly popular.
I also believe that the academic reputation of our institution will continue to grow as we attract more students who can realize the value of the education that we deliver.